Monday, November 2, 2015

Why do photographers charge so much for a 1 hour portrait session?

You know that feeling you get when you go to the doctor? You wait for 45 minutes in the waiting room, then 20 minutes in the doctor's office before he comes in, than you are graced with a rushed 12 minute consultation and a whopping $198 bill.  I pretty much always leave the doctors office thinking "How can they do that?" I know I know.... medical school is feat, but seriously? 



Many people I speak with see the value in hiring a professional photographer for a portrait; but others may share my sentiment from the doctor's office.  '$250 for a 1 hour session?' (or in many cases $450 or more).   'I just need ONE picture for my Christmas card'. Why do photographers charge so much for one hour? '

Mother's day gift from a husband: a family portrait session for hi wife

Well today I'll break it down for you... whether a family portrait, engagement session, professional portrait etc, why your  perception of "$250 for 1 hour"  not quite as it seems; and share 3 reasons that it's worth every penny.



 1- A 'One Hour Session' is not equivalent to 'one hour of work' for a photographer.

A 'one hour session' really is more like a 6 to 8 hour job. Let me break it down.

Hour 1:  Setting up the shoot. Receiving the inquiry, discussing style & location, answering questions about what to wear, confirming night before etc.  ...taking a job from initial inquiry to day of shoot is easily 1 hour of work.

Hour 2: Getting ready for the shoot. It takes about an hour to get ready and there.... much more if the location is farther. Getting ready... shower, dress professional, make sure batteries are charged, memory cards have been downloaded and erased, lenses wiped, everything packed, and driving to the location.

Hour 3 The shoot. That's assuming the clients arrive on time, and we end on time... not always the case :)

Hour 4Unloading and uploading.  Unloading gear from the car, making sure all the lenses have caps and are put away safely. Taking CF cards, uploading them to the hard drive and backing them to cloud storage. One hour produces on average 500 images which need to be uploaded and backed up.

Hour 5/6 : Editing. If it's a short job (ex 15 images ) I estimate 1 hour.  A longer job (engagements for example with 75 images) 2 hours or more. Images must be loaded into Lightroom and culled. This means, even if we only give the client 15 we still have to open at 500 images and examine for expressions, blinking, stray hairs etc to select the ones the client will receive. Then, editing. Editing is involved. Very involved.  Amateurs 'run an action' on the whole batch. "Warm" action. Everything is warmer. Even the once blue sky. "Color Pop" everything is vibrant... from bright green grass to now slightly glowy orange skin. Talented editors will edit specific areas of the photo making sure the sky is cold, but the skin is warm. The barn door pops, the the skin does not! The wrinkles are still there, but they're reduced. The zit is gone and the distracting power line is cloned out. It's involved trust me. It's what I do all day everyday it feels like!

 My rule is enough that my clients feel they look absolutely great but never so much they would suspect that I Photoshopped them. I've NEVER had a client ask me if I Photoshopped them which is a good sign to me.

Have you ever taken a picture during a breath-taking sunset just to end up completely frustrated? If you expose for the sky, your friend becomes a silhouette, if you shoot for your friend, your gorgeous Monet-like sky is now a drab washed out grey.  Professional photographers know how to shoot for that, and make necessary corrections  in post processing so that you can have the memory just as beautiful as you experienced it. 

Hour 7/8 : Delivery. After images are edited, they are uploaded to Dropbox, sent to the client, and backed up to cloud. Sometimes additional follow up is spent with questions or correspondences about the shoot/images with the client via email.

So it's clear to see that a 'one hour session' really is much more involved time wise for a photographer than the actual time they spend on site with you.

 2- We have costs to be able to shoot your session

It may seem as though we have no costs when we show up, shoot, and deliver online images... but, alas... if our career was only so cheap! Here's a peak inside our gear bag. The long white lens, I upgraded this year. LOVE IT! I don't know how I lived without it. I bought it used for $1,600. That's ONE of the lenses. The other lens I'm saving for sells used for between $700 and $900. I have 3 others!  These lenses are BASIC to any pro's bag. And t are just lenses!  Forget camera, backup camera, flash gear, memory cards, bag, and we haven't gone into editing software, insurance, marketing, or taxes. Photography is EXPENSIVE!

  3- Our work has value.

Hiring a professional photography for an engagement, family, or professional portrait has true value. I don't think I've ever had a client say " I wish I hadn't spent the money on that".

"My favorite moment was when she fished out a jar of organic almonds and started up a hill, coaxing the horses over (they loved her too by the way). How prepared is that?? Her excitement was infectious and before I knew it, I was paying no attention to the lightly falling rain and having a fantastic time....Michelle remained committed to capturing her aesthetic, even climbing on the manor roof to get a shot of us with a mountain backdrop! We were so grateful t work with her, thanks Michelle!" - Kim Alston

"Of all the decisions, one of the most important to my wife and I was the photographer. We wanted lots of beautiful pictures of our wedding day, and Michelle fulfilled every dream. Her photos are stunning – vivid, romantic, and artistic. She captured the beauty of my amazing bride and our tremendous outdoor venue. More importantly, Michelle captured the emotions of the day. You can actually see the love and passion my wife and I share for one another when you look at Michelle’s pictures.From asking about our hopes before the big day, to making us feel at ease on our big day, to providing great customer service after our big day, we always felt that Michelle deeply cared. We could feel it in the way she treated us, and we can see it in her photos –- the photos we’ll cherish forever. " -  Jason Bellamy

You can read story after story, it's a worthwile investment 

It applies also to family portraits, and corporate portraits:

These are staff shots for West Pines in South Florida. Dan Gossett, the staff member who scheduled the shoot said,  " Our first introduction to most people is our head shot on our website or in print. And having a quality, professional head shot makes the best first impression. It shows you're serious about your industry. Michelle did a great job with our professional head shots. Not only did she make everyone smile and comfortable, she also makes noises like a whooping monkey." Haha. Dan. You didn't think I'd put that last joke comment you sent did you? It's true though. Some people feel comfortable in from of the camera and are naturals... others I completely humiliate myself to make them loosen up and laugh. My secret's out!

This was feedback from Jenna Braddock: Rock star dietitian, food blogger (, and instructor of Nutrition & Dietetics at University of North Florida.

"Michelle perfectly captured who I am in our portrait session. In fact, she really helped me discover more who of I am. She is incredibly talented at bringing out all the best sides of who you are as a person and brand. The pictures she produced have given me the presence I have wanted in a very competitive space. I constantly get compliments on my photos because they are just so beautiful"

(It's so cool to see my shots when Jenna is introduced on TV or online as a guest speaker )

These are corporate portraits for a IT company who runs the Design District in Miami

Clients who invest in professional portraits whether it be an engagement session, a family portrait, or a commercial/professional portrait are always happy with their investment. It's invaluable.

I realize when someone suggests the cost for one of these sessions to be more in the vicinity of 30 pounds, or 100 USD, it's not that people are being rude, they just don't know what goes into a session. So here was my brief "learning moment" lol, so you know, when you receive a quote from a photographer what exactly is being quoted in your price. Hope that brings some enlightenment and also a deeper appreciation for all the work we as photographers put into our session. If you liked the article, share it... spread the knowledge! Post the link on your FB page or Twitter. 

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  Have a wonderful fantastic AMAZERS work week and swing back next Monday for more awesomeness on the blog!

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, you are an incredible photographer. You captured me perfectly. I would pay you a million times over.